Talking recently on "NewsTalk 790 Today," the debate about school vouchers returned, and the debate seemed crystallized around one proposition: what is more important to us, society-at-large or the immediate individual? A caller said that he should be able to move his children from an under-performing school to a better school (presumably in terms of academics, behavior, quality of teachers, etc.) so his kids can get a better education. My argument was that vouchers allow parents to move the better-performing kids out of some problems schools, leaving more misbehaving/under-performing kids at that leftover public school, thus hurting the future prospects of the remaining students.
Both points are valid. If you have a child or children, your main focus is on their well-being, to give them every possible opportunity to succeed in their life. If their school is clearly an obstacle, you want to remove that obstacle -- and get them to a better school. In a vacuum, that's what any parent would want.
Yet, we don't live isolated from society. Our kids may get a better education through the use of a voucher to afford attending a private school, but what of all those students left at the original school? If their school suffers because of dwindling enrollment, a larger percentage of the time dealt with behavior issues (since more of the "good behavior" kids will be gone) and a lessening of interest by teachers to endure the stress of working at such a school, those remaining students are less likely to get a diploma -- and more likely to get arrested.
If I were told that, through the school voucher program, 10,000 students could get a markedly-better education from vouchers, but that would mean 50,000 students would be left in poorer-performing schools with a somewhat-lesser chance of getting a quality education, I can't take that offer. The greater good should ways win over the immediate. It's my philosophy to policy, to taxes, to anything: what helps the most in the long run, even if it means a little short-term pain for we individuals.
Then again, I may think different when I have kids.